Charity Begins With Pinellas First-Responders

When they aren’t catching bad guys and putting out fires, Pinellas County first-responders are busy making Christmas brighter.

PINELLAS COUNTY, FL — When they aren’t catching bad guys and putting out fires, Pinellas County first-responders are busy making Christmas brighter for needy families and children in the community.

At 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, nearly 100 Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies, employees and volunteers arrived at Target at 4450 Park St. N. in St. Petersburg to do some Christmas shopping for 1,000 children and their families. The sheriff’s office raised more than $95,000 through the 25th annual Ride & Run With the Stars for kids in need, held Dec. 1 at Fort DeSoto Park.

With gift lists in hand, deputies and employees spent the morning filling their shopping carts with toys and games for children being assisted by the Sheriff’s Christmas Sharing Project.

The shopping spree also included basic needs like underwear, socks, a jacket and school clothes. The families in need were identified by sheriff’s office members throughout the year and are screened to determine the level of support needed.

Bicycle requests will be filled separately and delivered to families throughout the holidays. Approximately 156 bikes will be delivered this year.

Deputies deliver many of the packages in person to the deserving families in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the St. Petersburg Police and Feeding Tampa Bay brought food to more than 350 families. The group gathered Monday to offer free groceries to families in need at Tangerine Plaza.

The partnership will continue into next year, with food being given away on the second Tuesday of each month.

On Sunday, Dec. 10, more than 70 St. Petersburg Police officers and employees shopped for needy children at the Target at 8151 Dr. Martin Luther King St. N. during the second annual Park, Walk and Joy event/

The officers had no problem spending $10,000 on toys and other gifts for 130 children.

Police officers will give the gifts to children in the city’s two PAL (Police Athletic League) programs, children of homicide victims, and 25 needy children enrolled in the city’s Parks and Recreation programs.

All police department shoppers donated their time for the event. The toys will be wrapped and delivered later this month.

Not to be outdone, Largo cops and firefighters spent Saturday morning, Dec. 9 at the Walmart on Roosevelt Boulevard in Largo purchasing clothes, toys and other items for 22 needy families with 50 children.

With the help of the Largo Family Restaurant, Largo High School Class of 1971, and both hometown Largo Walmarts, the first-responders quickly chose $8,000 worth of gifts.